Democratization and women's political leadership in North Africa.

Author:Moghadam, Valentine M.
Position:Participation - Report
 
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In the spring of 2011 when citizens in Arab countries rose up against their regimes, it appeared that the "third wave" of democratization had begun in the Middle East and the Maghreb, and that countries would embark on successful democratic transitions. Issues such as the gendered nature of the uprisings, how gender relations and women's mobilizations have shaped trajectories, as well as how women and their rights have been affected, have been under-researched. In this article, I put the spotlight on North Africa--Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia--which saw different protest dynamics and political outcomes subsequently. Drawing from mainstream literature on determinants of democratization and feminist literature on women and democratic transitions, I examine how women's preexisting legal status and social positions, as well as the broad structural, institutional, and cultural contexts, shaped the course and immediate outcomes of the Arab Spring in the countries examined. I argue that those countries that saw advances in women's participation and rights prior to the Arab Spring are the ones most likely to transition successfully to democracy, and indeed, to establish a more women-friendly democracy; and that women's growing political leadership will influence the quality of ongoing democratizations in the Maghreb countries of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.

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In the spring of 2011 citizens in one Arab country after another rose in defiance of authoritarian regimes to demand political change. It appeared that the region had caught up with the "third wave" of democratization--perhaps ushering in a fourth one--and would embark on successful democratic transitions. After all, polls since 2000 had shown strong support for democracy in almost all Arab countries. (1) The road since then, however, has been rocky, with quite different trajectories that a burgeoning body of literature has analyzed. (2) Less researched has been the gendered nature of the uprisings, that is, how gender relations and women's mobilizations have shaped the trajectories, as well as how women and their rights have been affected.

The focus here is on North Africa--Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia--which experienced different protest dynamics and political outcomes subsequently. I offer three propositions: 1) women's preexisting legal status and social positions (including political participation and involvement in decisionmaking)--as well as the broader structural, institutional, and normative contexts--have helped to shape the course and immediate outcomes of the Arab Spring in Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia; 2) women's growing political leadership will influence the quality of ongoing democratizations in the Maghreb countries of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia; and 3) those countries that saw advances in women's participation and rights prior to the Arab Spring are the ones most likely to transition successfully beyond mere democracies to more women-friendly ones.

The literature on and historical record of women and "third wave" democratic transitions reveal that not all transitions have seen women mobilizing as women, and not all transitions to democracy have been accompanied by policies and programs in favor of women's full citizenship, gender equality, and leadership. (3) Indeed, democratic transitions present risks for women and minorities (and not just for national and regional economies) because outcomes are dependent on a number of salient endogenous and exogenous factors. The relevant endogenous factors are: preexisting gender roles, women's legal status and social positions prior to the revolutionary outbreak or democratic transition, and the institutional legacy of the authoritarian regime; the degree of women's mobilizations and the number and visibility of women's networks, organizations, and other institutions; the nature of the transition and the political parties and movements involved in the transition; and the ideology, values, and norms of the new state and its capacity and will for rights-based development. The relevant exogenous factors, which may have either positive or adverse effects on gender dynamics and outcomes, are international linkages (for example, to transnational advocacy networks or multilateral organizations) and the global diffusion of the women's rights agenda, as well as wars, invasions, and occupations. (4) In many cases, the imposition of forms of governance by outside actors or the emergence of resistance movements generated by foreign invasions and occupations has stalled or set back the advancement of women--as has occurred in Afghanistan and Iraq--and as was seen in Libya after 2011. (5)

In the prodigious mainstream literature on democratic transitions, scholars have identified cultural, socioeconomic, and institutional factors and forces as the major drivers of pro-democracy movements and consolidation. (6) Questions that have been posed include: Is economic development a prerequisite/causal factor, or is its impact to make democracies endure once they have been established through other means? Or, do pro-democracy movements and their consolidations presuppose a democratic culture, with citizens demonstrating and practicing "emancipative" or "self-expression values?" (7) For our purposes, the salient endogenous socioeconomic and cultural factors and forces include the following: economic development, national wealth, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, and income; level of human and social capital, population homogeneity, an educated population with a large middle class, and a civil society and civic culture demonstrating human empowerment and emancipative values; and the presence of a "modernizing bourgeoisie" as posited by sociologist Barrington Moore. To this I have added the presence of "modernizing women." (8) Exogenous variables that influence democratization via forces working globally and within a region include diffusion processes via media and international linkages as well as hegemonic impositions. (9) These factors generate or otherwise influence grievances, political opportunities, mobilizing capacities, and the ability of protesters or movement leaders to frame grievances and aspirations in a way that resonates with fellow citizens or a broader public. They shape the capacity of movements to build and sustain new democratic institutions that are also women-friendly and enhance prospects for women's political leadership.

GENDER AND THE ARAB SPRING

Applying the framework sketched above to elucidate the sociopolitical and cultural contexts that affected the women's rights agenda during and after the Arab Spring, we will examine three sets of measures, beginning with the following composite measure: preexisting gender roles; women's legal status and social positions prior to the revolutionary outbreak/democratic transition; the institutional legacy of the authoritarian regime; the degree of women's mobilizations; and the number and visibility of women's networks, organizations, and other institutions.

Across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the 1990s saw the expansion of many types of women's organizations in a context of limited and managed political liberalization. In previous work, I have identified seven types of such organizations: service or charitable organizations; professional associations; women's auxiliaries of political parties; women's auxiliaries of trade unions; women-in-development NGOs; research, policy centers, and women's studies institutes; and women's rights or feminist organizations. (10) There is scant information on women's rights organizations in Libya during the Gadhafi era, but in the Maghreb countries, they included the transnational Collectif 95 Maghreb Egalite formed in the run-up to the United Nation's Fourth World Conference on Women (which convened in Beijing in 1995); in Algeria, the state-affiliated l'Union Nationale des Femmes Algeriennes (UNFA), the feminist groups Triomphe, Defense et Promotion, Emancipation, SOS Femmes en Detresse, Centre d'Information et Documentation sur les Droits de l'Enfant et de la Femme (CIDDEF), and Reseau Wassila; in Morocco, l'Union de 1'Action Feminine (UAF), Association Democratique des Femmes du Maroc (ADFM), Reseau Anaruz, and the Springtime of Dignity Coalition; in Tunisia, the feminist groups Association des Femmes Tunisiennes pour la Recherche sur le Developpement (AFTURD) and Association Tunisienne des Femmes Democrates (ATFD), both formed in 1989, the women's policy agency Centre de Recherche, d'Etudes, de Documentation et d'Information sur la Femme (CREDIF), and Reseau Rihana. Tunis was also the headquarters of the Center of Arab Woman for Training and Research (CAWTAR), the region-wide women's research and policy agency. Egypt had the state-affiliated National Council for Women (NCW) along with smaller groups, such as the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, which had become a prominent voice for action against sexual harassment; the New Woman Foundation; and the Women and Memory Forum. These women's rights groups conducted research on and advocacy for the reform of patriarchal Muslim family laws, the criminalization of violence against women (honor killings, sexual harassment on the streets and in workplaces, and domestic violence), the right of women married to foreigners to obtain citizenship rights for their children, and the enhancement of women's participation in political bodies and in the workforce through appropriate policies and support structures.

These organizations all appeared in authoritarian contexts but became most prominent in the Maghreb. Casablanca, for example, was home to the woman-owned publishing house Editions Le Fennec, which produced a series of books in the 1990s on women and the law in the three Maghreb countries. The Collectif 95 Maghreb Egalite was able to draw on the emerging global women's rights agenda, as well as...

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